One of the tours that we planned for our visit to Kathmandu was taking a helicopter tour up to the Mount Everest base camp. It was, without a doubt, not only a highlight of the trip to Nepal, but one of the most fascinating experiences that we’ve ever had the privilege to enjoy. Just the time in the helicopter as you travel from Kathmandu over the foothills and then rising ever higher into the Himalayan mountains was a spectacular experience. Then when the helicopter landed and we were able to stand on a peak overlooking base camp at a dizzying altitude of 17,500 feet and look up at the summit of Mount Everest, it was absolutely breathtaking.
The total tour takes around 4 hours as you fly from Kathmandu to the tiny Lukla Airport where many other helicopters would also land, provisions would be taken to the various hiking camps, and we even saw one plane make the harrowing take-off from the very short runway. After a 10 minute wait at Lukla, we then continued on to the valley at Pheriche, where our group of 5 was split with 2 people continuing on to the Kalapatthar while we enjoyed amazing views of all of the surrounding peaks until the helicopter returned to drop off the other 2 people and the 3 of us were flown to the viewing point. We only had about 10 minutes at the overlook site as we hadn’t had time to acclimatize to the altitude and even after a short amount of time, we felt a little light headed as we breathed in the very thin air.
After we returned to Pheriche to pick up the other 2 passengers, we continued on to the Hotel Everest where we were able to get breakfast and watch all of the hikers as they made their way up from the valley below before continuing to their campsites. We weren’t initially sure if we were going to be able to go on the tour as the high altitude helicopters only fly when the weather is good and the skies aren’t cloudy as they can’t tell when a cloud might be concealing a mountain peak. On the day that we went, the skies were clear and we had amazing views of Mount Everest. As we sat eating breakfast, however, the conditions changed and the clouds came whipping across the peaks and our tour guide quickly escorted us to our helicopter to fly us back to Kathmandu during a slight snow squall.
When we finally arrived back in Kathmandu and returned to our hotel, we had time to sit with a glass of wine and review the photographs and videos that we had taken. As with anything, as amazing as the photographs might be, there is no way to truly explain how it felt to stand there at the base of such an iconic mountain as Mount Everest and all of the other high Himalayan peaks. It will be a memory that we will truly cherish for the rest of our lives and something that we would recommend to anyone who visits Kathmandu. It isn’t an inexpensive venture, but well worth the cost for the incredible experience that it provides.